Street whacked

July 29, 2008, 5:16 PM UTC

Every year I go to conferences of one kind or another, where everybody sits and takes notes and listens to Wall Street nabobs one sort or other, and it’s all very serious, and there are tons of metrics in the air, and mucho PowerPoint on the screen, and it all makes me laugh. Because it’s all hooey, ladies and gentlemen.

No matter how many times you try to convince me that there is any logic to the behavior of the Bulls and the Bears, I’m just not buying it. Take today’s market. Please. Today’s CNNMoney front page tells us that

“Stocks advanced at the open after investment bank Merrill Lynch (MER) said late Monday it would take a $5.7 billion writedown and sell off $11.1 billion in mortgage securities in the current quarter. The brokerage also said it plans to raise $8.5 billion through the issuance of new stock. (Full story).”

Merrill itself was off on the news of another exsanguination, but the market is encouraged! Goodie! Now, I’m sure there are a lot of very rational, very scientific reasons why the market is encouraged. Just as scientific as the risk management schemes worked out by the MIT boys who caused this whole thing in the first place.

The truth is, the kind of science that is done these days is anything but scientific. It’s speculation and guesswork, based on quantification of multiple unknowns, closer to poetry than to arithmetic. The economics that drives the market itself is ruled by theorems and suppositions grounded in pre-Relativity, pre-Quantum physics, which have long since been discredited. There are, if you get right down to it, no rules at all, not really — not in Physics, or Economics, or any other discipline that once looked solid from a 20th Century vantage point.

So who’s zooming who? Banks lose money! Bank stocks are up. Google’s (GOOG) growth moderates from Gargantuan to simply Fabulous. They go down. Companies with zero revenue trade at infinite multiples. Companies with great revenue and operating margins take the hose.

Don’t tell me it’s all rational, Bub. It’s a big old Vegas casino is what it is, where the House rules. And I don’t know about you, but I don’t feel like the House these days. I feel more like the guy whose looking for the exit into some some smaller boutique establishment where things make a little bit more sense. But where the hell is the frickin’ door?